Shame the Devil: A Novel
|Author:||George P. Pelecanos|
Shame the Devil opens with a restaurant robbery gone awry in Washington, D.C. Several workers are shot in cold blood, the gunman’s brother is killed by police, a young boy is run over by the getaway car. Victims and their relatives gather together in the aftermath, attempting to find a way past their grief. Except one: the gunman is determined to avenge, not grieve, his lost brother—by killing every person involved in his death.
Shame the Devil captures D.C. as only “the Zola of Washington” (PW) could, bringing together characters whose survival readers will care about desperately. This is a breathtaking book—vivid, fast, hard, moral—by a writer hailed as “one of the best crime novelists alive” (Dennis Lehane).
Penzler Pick, February 2000: Just as Robert B. Parker and Dennis Lehane have made Boston their own and Los Angeles has been the distinct province of a lineage leading from Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald to Michael Connelly and Robert Crais, so is George Pelecanos the storyteller who’s put Washington, D.C., on the noir map. Once considered “the best-kept secret in crime fiction” by his peers, he is now fast leaving behind those days of strictly word-of-mouth fame and cult status.
Telling it like he sees it, and looking fearlessly into those dark, forgotten alleyways that lay too far beyond the corridors of power to make it into any guidebooks, Pelecanos conjures up a gritty, ghostly Washington of working-class neighborhoods and aging suburbs and shoots it through with chillingly unpredictable menace. Most Washington natives probably wouldn’t recognize the place—but they couldn’t stop trying either, knowing that they’ve at least glimpsed (out of the corners of their eyes) those environs where a Pelecanos character is most at home.
In Shame the Devil, we find a society of grieving men and women connected by loss, betrayal, the need for revenge, and the shadowy presence of evil. As in other Pelecanos tales, the heroes are not easily identified, love is a coming together of wounded souls, and answers are found where least expected. In the aftermath of a botched armed robbery, a fair number of lives have been thrown into a downward spiral. The problems, however, come on faster and with more fury once the status quo sustaining the survivors has been breached by an ill-wishing and unwanted addition to their little group.
Here are two favorite moments. In one, protagonist Dimitri Karras asks the name of a fellow bar patron. Hearing that he’s called Happy, Karras comments that he doesn’t look too happy. The answer: “He’s pacing himself.” The other: we hear the thoughts of the sociopathic villain: “Some believed that incarceration was a mark of failure, but Frank disagreed. Prison was an essential element of any career criminal’s education.”
With Shame the Devil, Pelecanos solidifies his position among the elite of the brilliant coterie of young noir writers who are creating the emerging classics of the genre. —Otto Penzler